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Seoul spurns Tokyo's step on Dokdo

Publication Date : 18-08-2012


Seoul spurned yesterday Tokyo's proposal to take the persistent territorial spat over Dokdo to the International Court of Justice, vowing to sternly deal with Japan's provocative moves over the islets.

The proposal that sharply raised tension between the two neighbours was the third following the first in 1954 and second in 1962.

"[We] make it clear that the proposal by Tokyo does not deserve even a passing thought. There is no dispute whatsoever over the islets," Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a commentary.

"We will sternly deal with whatever kind of provocations Japan may make over Dokdo. Japan will have to take the whole responsibility for everything resulting from that."

Presaging retaliatory action in the economic realm, Japanese Finance Minister Jun Azumi also confirmed that Tokyo is considering scaling down the bilateral currency swap scheme.

Last October, President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda agreed to expand the scale of the currency swap programme to expire by the end of October from US$13 billion to $70 billion to prevent a possible foreign currency liquidity crunch.

"It is back to the drawing board including whether to extend [the currency swap programme]. We are considering [revising the original plan]," Azumi told reporters after Tokyo's cabinet meeting.

“We cannot overlook the remarks that appear to damage Japan's public sentiment. It is hard to make a completely cool-headed judgment."

The territorial spat over Korea's easternmost islets was rekindled after President Lee visited Dokdo five days before his country's Aug. 15 Liberation Day. It further escalated after Lee called for Emperor Akihito's apology for Japan's colonial atrocities should he want to visit Korea.

Earlier in the day, Japan's Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba met Seoul's ambassador to Tokyo Shin Kak-soo and officially suggested that the two countries bring the Dokdo case before the court with mutual consent.

In 1954, when Korea established a lighthouse on the islets, it requested that the case be brought before the court. In 1962 when the two countries began negotiations over the normalisation of their diplomatic relations, Japan made the same request.

As Seoul has not accepted the court's compulsory jurisdiction, Tokyo cannot take the case to the international court without its consent.

Should Seoul not respond to its proposal, Tokyo plans to take a mediatory step stipulated in a bilateral deal that the two countries signed in 1965 to normalise their ties damaged after Japan’s 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean Peninsula.

"We will go into the mediation process in accordance with the official document we exchanged in 1965," Gemba told reporters.

"What matters is that as a member of the international community, we make an appeal for the fair and peaceful resolution of the conflict. [Our chance of success should the case be brought before the court] is 120 per cent."

The document states that the two countries seek to address their bilateral conflict through a procedure they agree on should they fail to resolve it through diplomatic channels. It does not specify what the procedure is.

Japan appears to be considering other diplomatic measures against Korea.

Japan's Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday that Tokyo is mulling refusing to offer its support when Seoul applies to be elected as a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council for the term from 2013-14 during the general assembly in October.

Tokyo reportedly argues that Korea does not deserve the membership as it does not respond to its call for "peaceful resolution" of the Dokdo issue in accordance with the international law.

South Korea, however, believes that as it already has support from more than two-thirds of the U.N. members, its election is possible without Japan’s endorsement.

Amid the territorial spat and historical animosity over Japan's failure to sincerely acknowledge its wartime atrocities, the bilateral relationship is headed toward its lowest in recent memory.

Also embroiled in territorial disputes with China and Russia, Japan is expected to put up a strong front in order not to seem soft, particularly at a time when a parliamentary election is expected later this year.

On top of it, the spat over Dokdo comes as Japan is struggling to shore up its national pride sapped by its prolonged economic slump and the rise of neighbouring states, namely China, analysts said.

In recent years, its political right has pushed to make Japan a "normal state" with a full-fledged military despite its pacifist constitution banning it from waging war and possession of potential war materials.

In recent years, Japan has taken stronger moves to assert its ownership of Dokdo through its school textbooks and official diplomatic and defence documents.

Japan illegally incorporated the islets as part of its territory in 1905 before colonising the entire Korean Peninsula. Korea has been in effective control of them since its liberation in 1945.


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